Who needs privacy? All of us….

A couple of privacy stories have been making big news over the last few days. The first is the ‘celebrity photo’ saga – naked photos of Jennifer Lawrence and others have been ‘leaked’ onto the net. The second is the revelation that the Metropolitan Police obtained the telephone records of Tom Newton Dunn, the political editor of the Sun, in connection with the ‘Plebgate’ saga. Between them, the two stories highlight some of the ways in which privacy matters – and at the same time some of the misunderstandings, some of the hypocrisy, and some of the complexity of privacy.

Celebrities and privacy

The relationship between celebrities and privacy is a complex one. At one level – the level usually argued by the press (including the Sun) – celebrities have less of a right to privacy than the rest of us. After all, they put themselves in the public eye. They open their doors to the likes of Hello magazine – and they make millions from us, from our attention, so doesn’t that mean they have to sacrifice a bit of their privacy to us? The put themselves in the public eye – doesn’t that mean their lives are ‘public’, and drawing attention to them is in the ‘public interest’? This brings into play the classic question of what the difference is between what ‘interests the public’ and what is ‘in the public interest’. They’re certainly not identical – but there is a degree of fuzziness at times.

At another level – the level argued by the celebrities themselves – celebrities need more protection, and if not a stronger right of privacy then a stronger way to enforce that right than the rest of us. After all, celebrities are more likely to have their private lives intruded upon by the press. Paparazzi will point their long lenses into celebrity houses, pursue celebrities down the street, rifle through celebrities’ dustbins, much more than they will for the rest of us. A naked picture of Jennifer Lawrence will get a lot more clicks on the net than a naked picture of a ‘non-celebrity’. The phone hacking saga (of which more later) is just one example – and it’s no coincidence that many of those at the forefront of the campaign to implement the Leveson report are celebrities such as Hugh Grant and Steve Coogan.

There’s strength in both perspectives – and as both are regularly argued by people who are both articulate and very ‘media-savvy’ it is often hard to navigate between them. The courts try – but all too often, whatever they decide is damned by one side or the other.

The Press and Privacy

The Sun are justifiably angry about the revelation that their political editor’s phone records have been accessed by the Metropolitan Police – not least because the story being investigated actually concerned the activities of the police. There are conflicts of interest all over the place here – but also a much bigger point.

For the press to function well, it needs to have privacy. That is, it needs to be possible for the press to keep its sources secret, to protect those people who reveal the key information. If they can’t protect their sources, there’s a very direct chilling effect – people who might come forward with information will be afraid to do so, so that information will never be uncovered, and all kinds of stories that are very much in the public interest will never see the light of day. Members of the press need to have confidentiality – so that they are able to do their job, a critical job in holding the powerful to account. That means the police and the politicians for a start.

Hypocrisy and Privacy

And yet, the stench of hypocrisy is almost overwhelming here. This is the Sun, getting outraged about a breach in privacy. The same Sun who were part of the phone hacking saga, who regularly invade the privacy of all and sundry – celebrities are just one example – often claiming it is in the public interest, but still invading privacy.  The same Sun who were part of an often vicious onslaught on the Guardian in connection with the Snowden revelations. The Sun who often seem to operate as though no-one has any right to privacy – except their own journalists.

This kind of hypocrisy is matched by that of some of the hackers and champions of internet freedom who feel it’s OK to obtain and then release, gleefully, naked pictures of Jennifer Lawrence. Some seem to want their own anonymity and privacy, and think the NSA and GCHQ are nightmarish oppressors – but think that Jennifer Lawrence only has herself to blame for even having those photographs in the first place.

It’s a sadly common set of double standards – privacy doesn’t seem very important, indeed it often seems like something bad (‘privacy is for paedos’, in the words of Paul McMullan, former News of the World journalist) until it has an impact on you. The Sun’s outrage is particularly hypocritical, but at times almost all of us are guilty of it.

We all need privacy

The truth, at least as I see it, is that we all need privacy. We all need our privacy protected – and invasions of privacy should never be done lightly, without a thought for the consequences. Jennifer Lawrence – and all of us – should be able to take whatever photos we want of ourselves, however intimate. Members of the press should be able to communicate safely and securely with their sources. And we, ordinary people, should be able to go on with our ordinary lives without fear of their being exposed. Our lives aren’t any less important than those of celebrities or the press – and though the impact of privacy invasions on our ordinary lives may not be as earth shattering or newsworthy as those of celebrities, politicians and so forth, to us they matter. The revelation that NSA operatives thought looking at nude and sexual photos found by surveillance was fun, and sharing them with colleagues was just a perk of the job should repel us.

There are many other ways that invasions of our privacy have an impact upon us – things like affecting our job prospects, our insurance premiums, our credit ratings, our relationships – but there’s a bigger point here. These are our lives. This is part of our human dignity. Privacy is part of that, and it matters.  We should try to remember that for other people – and celebrities are people too.

83 thoughts on “Who needs privacy? All of us….

  1. We need help in understanding these issues. What we are looking at is something elemental in human behaviour. It is a mixture of sex and violence.
    No where in human affairs is the connection made more manifest than when looking at our behaviour in this area.
    The Sun is built on sex, intrusiveness and associated aggression.
    Paul’s article mentions sex and the violence of invasivness several times and this is not a sensationalist article. It is a matter of fact:this is the subject matter.
    We need to understand ourselves a bit better.
    Why, for instance, didn’t the editor of the Sun protect his material?
    The answer is because he wanted to be intruded upon as much as he wanted to intrude.
    These are human emotions commercialised and writ large.
    Sexual feelings of wanting contact, to “get into” someone else and to be “got into” .
    As a form of reassuring contact, as a punishment whereby the limit is set, both.
    The editor of the Sun invited the hubristic day when he would be hacked. How appropriate, then, that it was by the police.
    I think there is little we can do about such activity. It can be pointed out that human communication is necessarily sexualised. Jennifer Lawrence played her part. This is as old as the hills. In ancient Egypt barges were floated down the Nile deporting huge phalluses and, no doubt, upon which sex was enacted.
    But as individuals we can be aware of what it means to us. That, in this context, is the beginning of the need for privacy.

    • Oh I get it “The Sun are justifiably angry about the revelation that their political editor’s phone records have been accessed by the Metropolitan Police”.
      We are talking about telephone company records of the political editor? Not clear from the original post.
      Well I’m sure that a more conscientious journalist could be more careful with the tracks they leave. My point remains.

      • I’m still not entirely sure what your point is, I’m afraid – but sorry for not making the Sun story clear. I thought it was all in the public domain now: I should have added a link.

      • It seems I can’t comment on your comment? But here it is, it seems out of order.
        You are thinking about law and ethics, I am thinking about human behaviour, motivation, and ethics.
        I am saying, tangentially to the points you are making, that something fundamental about ourselves is revealed in such stories. And that unless we can see this we cannot understand the need for privacy.
        It is a point of general importance to discussions of the use of the internet in that there is a repetitious cycle of secrecy (for instance anonymity through an alias) and exposure (the opposite of that anonymity) a point you make in your post.
        I am thinking about what motivates us in this cycle and why we lose site of ethics in the process.

  2. As far as the hacked and leaked photos are concerned, I think that privacy is a bit of a red herring. The reason it made the headlines is because the photos are of well-known celebrities in the nude. But the people who obtained them also had access to anything else that was on the same iCloud backups. The other stuff may not have been as salacious, but it could be even more damaging. There may be passwords, financial records, etc on there, for example.

    The real issue is the fragility of much online security and the unjustified level of trust that many people place in it. To be sure, Apple carries a fair amount of responsibility here for having a system that was so easily breached. But there is some culpability on the part of those who didn’t keep their login details secure (if, as rumoured, it was a brute force attack then it could easily have been prevented with better passwords) and put sensitive material online behind weak protection.

    If it’s nothing more than a few naked selfies that have leaked onto the Internet, then the victims have actually got off pretty lightly. Other people may lose far more. And the fact that the press won’t be interested in J Random Nobody having their bank account cleaned out doesn’t make it any better.

  3. Paul,
    An interesting take on the issue, I accept the celebrities do need protection as we all do. My concern here is your reference to the press and privacy. You have suggested something about the Sun situation that is not accurate. The Sun’s privacy was not at stake. The police were following the law, they obtained the information legally, and they were acting in the public interest. Privacy does not, and cannot, trump the rule of law.
    There is no public interest higher than the rule of law (except survival but that is the exception to the normal situation of rule of law). If there is, then please let me know. If you believe that privacy is a higher public interest than the rule of law, you have placed the individual above the community and destroyed the idea of the community.
    The police were pursuing a crime. As Operation Alice indicated, the police were investigating a crime. If anyone’s privacy, including a journalist’s, trumps that responsibility, how can the police investigate the crime. The crime was not a trumped up issue. It came to suggest that political blackmail was possible as officers could concoct a story, send it to the press, and undermine an elected official. They would then be able to undermine the democratic process with the press as unwitting accomplices.

    Privacy stops when a crime has to be investigated. The journalist does not get to decide the public interest in that case, it is for the police to justify it, as they have, to the public and the courts. You may not like how the police do their job, but do you want an ineffective police unable and unwilling to go after criminals?

    • Too late for a proper reply – but I disagree fundamentally with the idea the privacy ‘stops’ when a crime has to be investigated. It’s at that point that the balancing exercise has to take place – which is why warrants are appropriate, and the law might need amending. Laws often do.

      • Paul,
        I am simply surprised at this response. You are saying the law cannot investigate a crime because someone’s privacy? Think about the implications.
        Sorry, you cannot come into my house. Huh? The state has to administer justice. The law gave them the power and they exercised it.
        Either change the law, and allow police or anyone else to stitch up minsters with the collusion or unwitting help of the press and we are back to the News of the World.
        The press may not be regulated, but I can assure you I would rather have the police held accountable as they were in this case.
        If the press cannot be regulated then the police can make sure that their officers are not involved in an illegal trade or illegal activity involving the press. In other words, the press cannot suborn the police and get away with it anymore nor can the police use the press as political tools. They can if it is in the public interest, but this case was obviously not.

      • No, I’m absolutely NOT saying that. I’m saying that the police need to be accountable, and this is one area where that accountability comes into play. Search warrants are required in the real world – this is just the equivalent of that in the online world. Or don’t you think the police should need to get a warrant for a search in the real world?

      • They are accountable. The paperwork that needs to be completed to authorize this search can be requested. This is no different from the miranda search at heathrow. There was no court. There was no warrant. It was a procedural matter. http://lawrenceserewicz.wordpress.com/2014/06/10/how-does-a-bureaucracy-protect-your-freedom/

        If the police have not followed the proper procedure under the law, then they can be held to account. In the past, the press had a free hand with police officers. One only need note how Operation Alice showed that several of the officers had “contacts” in the press, which suggests just how far reaching the press was in the pre-Leveson era.
        Imagine if a couple of unelected people decided the public interest was served by stitching up a minister they did not like? Let’s say Mr. Gove. Would that be legal, or democratic, to do something like that? No. The officers concocted something, sought an unwitting but quite willing accomplice in the press.
        If this law did not exist, how would Mr. Mitchell have cleared his name? How could the Police assure us of the integrity of their officers?
        At no point has anyone suggested the investigation has not followed the law or been in the public interest. If so, I will be grateful for a link to it.

        The issue is not privacy nor is it about RIPA. It is about the rule of law and whether the state can act in the public interest. The press do not have a monopoly on the public interest (and neither does the state) but the public will give greater weight to a state acting in their interests to uphold the law than a journalist’s “privacy” when they have been party to an apparent conspiracy to “stitch up” a minister.

      • You do seem to want to frame the issue in your own terms – but you’re spectacularly missing the point here. As a legal scholar I don’t just look at the law as it is, but as it should be, if it is to function correctly to the benefit of people.

      • Interesting discussion. So the legal dimension seems well rehearsed in terms of what the law is.
        “It is about the rule of law and whether the state can act in the public interest. The press do not have a monopoly on the public interest (and neither does the state) but the public will give greater weight to a state acting in their interests to uphold the law than a journalist’s “privacy” when they have been party to an apparent conspiracy to “stitch up” a minister.”
        I think there is another issue, can individuals act in the public interest? i.e. not those with the conventional mechanisms of broadcast – that is to say catching the attention of a public audience. For a brief moment the internet was a place for such broadcasts.
        From the Guardian write up:
        “The revelation that police obtained his records has alarmed lawyers who work for media organisations that are regularly in court defending journalistic privilege.”
        If journalists want to protect their sources they should naively talk to them on the phone. I don’t think that it difficult to understand. To my mind Tom Newton Dunn worked for a deeply corrupt organisation in that much of their news was predicated on intruding into the lives of others in order to manufacture the salacious interest of their readers, something he was well aware of. I think he was as cavalier about his own fate as he was that of his sources. But since the main interest is selling salaciousness why would you take journalism seriously?
        I do think this is about RIPA in the sense that the law now exists and there exists a great responsibility on those who do have the privilege to reach large audiences with their ideas.
        So there isn’t just the ethics of RIPA which might leave one wishing for a better law, but the ethics of journalism, which includes taking measures to protect sources and having responsible framework within which to publish your work.
        Translating this into terms of the internet, which seems to bring into question ideas of privacy in a different way, there is not just a need for equitable laws or technical means to protect privacy, there is also the need for responsibility on the part of us, the users.
        What is at play is that the internet will no longer be a broadcast medium for ordinary users, and attempts to offer that ability to users will always be accompanied by a high cost in the tacit deal with the platform provider, Facebook or what ever, not in terms of intrusion so much as in terms of the way the audience is milked, which would make such a user ethically closer to Tom Newton Dunn than they may care to think.

    • > There is no public interest higher than the rule of law

      There is no such thing as ‘public interest’. There are just people all of whom have different interests. Sure, those interests often coincide but that does not mean ‘public interest’ exists as anything more than an observation. There is no agent called ‘the public’ who’s interests must be respected, there are only individuals (people) with their own interests that are shared by others or perhaps not.

      A ‘law’ just means an idea which is backed by the willingness to use force.

      There is nothing moral or immoral about a ‘law’. Many laws throughout history have been grossly immoral. In fact the worst atrocities of the last century were not only lawful, it was actually UN-lawful to not commit them, and to not fund them.

      And all of the worst atrocities of the last century were the result of people such as yourself claiming the ‘rule of law’ to be the highest authority, above even the most basic moral rules (the ones we learn in kindergarden) with respect to coercion, murder, theft, torture, kidnapping, assault or imprisonment.

      The idea that “There is no public interest higher than the rule of law ” is arguably the most dangerous and destructive idea of the modern era.

      > If you believe that privacy is a higher public interest than the rule of law, you have placed the individual above the community and destroyed the idea of the community.

      Spoken like a true tyrant.

      “Society’s needs come before the individual’s needs” – Adolf Hitler

      • To be fair to Lawrence Serewicz where he says “There is no public interest higher than the rule of law (except survival but that is the exception to the normal situation of rule of law). If there is, then please let me know. If you believe that privacy is a higher public interest than the rule of law, you have placed the individual above the community and destroyed the idea of the community.” I think he is referring to ‘public interest’ as a legal concept, for instance where the Legislature is separate from the Judiciary.
        However, given this context, I think you are closer to the bone when you criticise “If you believe that privacy is a higher public interest than the rule of law, you have placed the individual above the community and destroyed the idea of the community.” as the words of a tyrant.
        The law, of course, is very conservative and resistant to change. But it does change, and the discussions held here are a small part of the process.
        despite that “public interest” is a fiction i believe what is meant by it, aside from sorting out the precedence of legal ideas, is “trying to enact what is good or desirable for others”.
        Clearly both an unenviable and very human task. There are no magic insights here.
        Even if Lawrence Serewicz is attempting to be tyrannical, and I’m not convinced, I don’t think the situation is one of tyranny, as yet.
        We do have privacy, we have inner worlds and private lives.
        It could be true that someone (Jennifer Lawrence or, as I have suggested, Tom Newton Dunn) project themselves onto the ‘world stage’, the broadcast space, quite wittingly. It becomes a very difficult line to tread. As I have said elsewhere, there is a public arena and there is a human need for it to contain (if not exclusively) sexual material. When is enough, enough? I have condemned Tom Newton Dunn and the Sun for making an industry out of it. Others might draw the line differently.
        But what I am sure of is that we still have personal privacy and there will always be sex in the public arena.
        I am highlighting this equation:the more invaded the personal privacy of some the more sex in the public arena for many. And I am pointing out that it is complex in the following two statements. Sometimes people who we might think would want to be private do not want to be. Often more sex in the public arena diverts from more important and difficult issues. (The Mitchell scenario was a typical example. Oh, to explain, sex –> intrusion –> aggression.)
        Where fair and equitable law fits in here I am unsure. Can a law be framed that would help us focus on the more important issues? That, anyway, would be in the ‘public interest’.

      • Yes you make fair points/ distinctions. I was being a little heavy handed.

        The concept of ‘public interest’ (the common interests of many individuals) does have a lot more validity when we are dealing with ‘negative rights’ as opposed to ‘positive rights’.

        Positive rights: I (we) should be able to violate your privacy for my (our) self interest (pervy or otherwise)

        Negative rights: I (we) should not be penalised for violating your (their) privacy in the name of self defence (ie to protect us from aggression, exploitation, persecution etc).

        I think the real issue is not so much the way technology is allowing violations of privacy to occur with ease. As long as it is a level playing field it’s all cool (I mean it’s equal risks/ benefits for everyone, and better than living in the stone age).

        The real issue is when there is an imbalance of power (law) when it comes to who has the right to use what technology to violate privacy and who does not.

        Those with the most power to do harm and damage (AKA government and heir friends in corporations, including the media) should be the most open and willing to have their privacy violated in the name of the ‘public interest’ (in a negative rights sense) and yet we see them trying to lock people up for trying to do just that.

        ‘Transparency’ and the slogan “If you see something, say something” only applies to the slaves, and apparently does not apply to the slave masters.

        In the end discussing all this new technology is just the latest distraction away from the central issue which is – and will continue to be – the fact that we have a society which is run according to laws which are enforced by people who are granted, by law, an exemption from those very same laws!

      • I think you’re getting somewhat confused between the concept of “rule of law” and the value of individual laws.

        The principle of rule of law does not imply that all individual acts of statute are good and must always be obeyed without question. What it means is that the fundamental basis of government and justice within a nation is based on law rather than arbitrary dictum. As Wikipedia puts it:

        “Rule of law implies that every citizen is subject to the law, including law makers themselves. In this sense, it stands in contrast to an autocracy, collective leadership, dictatorship, or oligarchy where the rulers are held above the law”

        In this sense, it is true to say that there is no public interest higher than the rule of law, because if you dispense with the rule of law then you open yourself up to arbitrary rule which can ride roughshod over every individual right – including the right to privacy.

      • > … if you dispense with the rule of law then you open yourself up to arbitrary rule…

        ‘Rule of law’ is already arbitrary by definition because laws are generally NOT based on rules. ‘Rule of law’ refers to the RULERS who invent and enforce the laws. It does not refer to actual RULES.

        It may come as a shock but we still live in a society which is not based on rules. Instead it is based on ‘laws’ enforced by rulers. To clarify the difference…

        A ‘rule’ is a condition which applies, or is applied, universally (ie to everyone, including the enforcers of those rules).

        A ‘law’ is just an opinion with a gun. A law can reflect and enforce a rule, but it does not necessarily have to. Most do not.

        Just think of any rules such as: it is against the rules to coerce, kidnap, murder or steal property and you will find there are a bunch of ‘laws’ which grant those in government a monopoly on the legal right to violate those rules.

        Rules with permanent exemptions cannot be said to be rules at all. And using laws to enforce a monopoly on the right to violate a rule is NOT the same thing as enforcing that rule via laws.

        However, to the untrained (and heavily propagandised) eye the massively important distinction fails to register.

        LAWS REFLECTING AND ENFORCING RULES: Raping the girls of this land is against the rules. It is against the law. This rule means 100% of the population is forbidden to commit rape. It is a rule because it applies to everybody universally.

        RULE OF LAW: Nobody but the rulers can rape the girls of this land by law. This law creates a monopoly on the right to commit rape by forbidding 99% of the population to commit rape (ie basically, everybody but the rulers).

        So they are almost the same ….. but the distinction matters!

        > Rule of law implies that every citizen is subject to the law, including law makers themselves.

        That may be true but the whole point is that if a law is not based on a rule to begin with then that means nothing.

        If I invent the law “Nobody else but me is allowed to tax the inhabitants of this land” then we can apply this law to everyone (including me) and enforce it with guns and cages. But that does not make it the same as enforcing a RULE does it? It is just me using trickery to enforce a monopoly on property theft without too many people realising what I am doing.

        We are still very much living in a (Monty) Pythoneque dark ages of silliness when it comes to the idea of laws vs rules.

        I wonder why government schooling doesn’t devote even a single hour to clarifying this most fundamental topic….? Hmmmm why indeed…?

      • > A ‘rule’ is a condition which applies, or is applied, universally (ie to everyone, including the enforcers of those rules).

        > A ‘law’ is just an opinion with a gun. A law can reflect and enforce a rule, but it does not necessarily have to. Most do not.

        I think these are your definitions of both rule and law. There is no reason why a rule cannot be defined which applies only in certain circumstances. Most rules are like this, whether they be laws of nature, rules of logic or or generalisations from human life experience (as a general rule I have found … ).
        Just because there is a way to divide up rule from law in this binary way does not mean you have captured the subtleties of the reality of law making, governance, rule finding or rule breaking, for that matter.
        A ‘law’ is not ‘just an opinion with a gun.’ What a tired phrase that is.
        Everyday I both obey and break laws, many people do (breaking the law, skirting up the pavement and so on in my bike in my case).
        I do not see great wisdom in the idea that enforcers of laws are largely exempt from them. Which laws and which enforcers? The police, the government, the opposition, the Queen, Alex Salmond, M16, the Court Judge?
        I don’t think all enforcers are created equal, if any or all on my list qualify.

        Breaking things down into simplistic binaries, without detail of what your two categories really cover, not how they are founded doesn’t seem to me to further our understanding of the issues.
        What has really happened is that a distinction between one class of person and another (those who understand there are enforcers exempt somehow exempt from the law and those who don’t). And that the distinction can be made is then used to show the distinction must be correct.
        Most human behaviour does not fit into oppressor and oppressed in quite this way, and while a lot arguably also has to do with either oppressing or being oppressed it is more complex than that so that the idea that there is law enforced by exempt enforcers adds little.
        Your approach is more like distinguishing between red and green (yes there is a distinction) and then saying everything that is not red is green. Most of everything is neither red nor green.

      • > There is no reason why a rule cannot be defined which applies only in certain circumstances.

        Rules that factor in various different circumstances are still rules, for sure ….. that is unless by ‘circumstances’ you mean special privilege of certain people (ie the ‘divine right’ to rule others by force).

        “Nobody is allowed to steal property” qualifies as a rule because it is a universal condition.

        “Nobody is allowed to steal property except the king” is not a rule because no rule is being applied universally. The king’s ‘special status’ is not a special circumstance which the rule factors in, it is just a guy in a fancy costume who is claiming a violent monopoly on the right to steal property. Instead of being a rule it is more accurately a command backed with the willingness to use force, AKA a ‘law’.

        > Most rules are like this, whether they be laws of nature, rules of logic or or generalisations from human life experience (as a general rule I have found … )

        Well, actually no. When it comes to things like ‘laws of nature’ kings who jump of tall buildings go splat when they hit the ground at 200 mph just the same as everyone else. The so called ‘law of gravity’ is a rule which applies universally.

        > A ‘law’ is not ‘just an opinion with a gun.’ What a tired phrase that is.

        It may be tired, but ‘tired’ is not an argument. Are you saying a law is NOT an opinion with a gun? If so what is your argument?

        This morning I declared you must pay me 26% of your income. This is called an opinion, a command, a preference, an idea, wishful thinking or a suggestion. What makes it into a law is if I send round armed thugs in matching blue costumes to drag you away and put you in a cage for disobeying me, and to shoot you if you resist or attempt to escape the cage.

        > Everyday I both obey and break laws, many people do (breaking the law, skirting up the pavement and so on in my bike in my case).

        That’s more of a violation of the highway code than breaking law per se. If you break a bone fide law and you are arrested, charged, convicted then if you attempt to ignore or resist any part of that process law enforcers will use force against you (guns, clubs, tasers, cages, handcuffs etc). That’s precisely distinguishes a ‘law’ from an opinion or a code or a suggestion or a plea.

        > I do not see great wisdom in the idea that enforcers of laws are largely exempt from them.

        It’s not an idea, it’s just how most laws work. For example ‘gun control’ laws are laws which enforce the state’s monopoly on owning and using guns. Gun control laws are not RULES which forbid to the ownership or use of guns because gun control laws are enforced using guns! Gun control laws just mean using guns to confiscate guns from the general population so that a small political elite end up with a monopoly on gun ownership and the legal right to use them.

        What happens if a person tries to use a gun to confiscate guns from the people in government? They are shot. So we cannot say gun control laws are based on rules about gun ownership and gun use. Clearly the enforcers of gun control laws are exempt from the very laws they impose onto everyone else by force (with their guns).

        “Nobody is allowed to do X” is a rule
        “Nobody except us is allowed to do X” is a law.

        Do you see the difference?

        > I don’t think all enforcers are created equal, if any or all on my list qualify.

        I don’t know what you are trying to say. Are you suggesting some people have ‘divine rights’ that others do not have? Isn’t that kind of dark ages stuff?

        > Breaking things down into simplistic binaries, without detail of what your two categories really cover, not how they are founded doesn’t seem to me to further our understanding of the issues.

        This and the rest of your comment contains no actual arguments.

        It’s a lot more simple than you are making it out to be. Is there anything about enforcing the rule ‘rape is not allowed’ that requires enforcers of that rule to commit rape?

        Now replace ‘rape’ with other activities and keep asking the same question….

      • Thanks for the comment. I am picking up a number of labels. This week, I am a tyrant. Curiously, the tyrant is the only public man as his subjects are private and only enter the public domain at the tyrant’s behest. If I were a tyrant, would I be encouraging people to be public?

        On the issue of the rule of law, you need to consider what is the law, what does the law represent. Therein, we see that laws can be good or bad, but that, in turn, requires a standard to judge the law. In the communities we live within, the community determines that standard as the basis of how it will be organised. Thus, France has different laws than England, but each has laws.
        The public interest is a well known and used term. The term reflects what the community wants, and it reflects individuals acting in common. If you are suggesting that individuals cannot act in common, I do wonder your commitment to democracy.
        Finally, the highest good for a community, as a community, is not the same as the highest good for an individual. This is the tension we see in Plato’s Crito. Let me know your thoughts on it.
        Finally, Hitler said a lot of things, I am not sure the reference and it provides no insight than Hitler said a lot of things.
        Thanks again for the comment. I will be interested in what you find after you read Plato’s Minos, which discusses the idea of What is the law and Crito that explores the role of the law in society.
        Best,
        L.

      • > Therein, we see that laws can be good or bad, but that, in turn, requires a standard to judge the law.

        Agreed. There are several ways to judge laws.

        1. Does the law come from government? If it does is automatically good and must be automatically be obeyed.
        2. Does the law reflect basic moral rules? (the rules we teach children about murder, coercion, stealing, assault, kidnapping and torture etc being immoral). If the law violates these basic moral rules it is bad and should therefore be disobeyed.
        3. Is the law based on a rule, which is to say does it apply to everyone equally? If it does not then why not? Who is exempt and why?

        All of the wars and atrocities of the last century were the result of the general population judging laws according to the first criteria ie the automatic authority of government and placing government authority above moral authority.

        Had the general population used criteria 2 and 3 instead (ie placing moral authority and consistency above government authority) then none of the wars and atrocities of the last century would have occurred.

        > In the communities we live within, the community determines that standard as the basis of how it will be organised.

        This is rarely the case. Most ‘standards’ and the laws which reflect them are created by governments, not communities. And most of those laws violate basic moral rules, or are dependent in some way on their violation. Also very few laws are based on rules which apply consistently to everyone.

        This is just as true for surveillance and privacy as anything else. The law allows government to surveil you but it also allows them to put you in a cage if you attempt to surveil them, whether successful or not and regardless of the ‘greater good for society’ such as exposing government wrongdoings which have been kept secret.

        > Finally, the highest good for a community, as a community, is not the same as the highest good for an individual.

        And this is an excellent argument for making laws consistent, which is to say making them apply equally to everyone, which is to say basing laws on RULES rather than simply being the enforcement of the will of RULERS and their supporters.

      • Thanks, I fear we are taking up Paul’s comment space. A couple of points. The three points forget a fundamental question: where is the source of the laws. There are three sources and you only mention one- man. The other two are nature and God or nature’s God if you are a deist.
        If we look at laws by men, we realize that they are imperfect and flawed, in some way, and that is their problem. They attempt to reflect the regime, but they are an imperfect reflection which need to be refined. The process to refine and revise them allows them to be captured in a way that the founding would not as such, although that assumes a perfect founding or perhaps more directly the belief in a social contract.
        However, leaving aside that first point, which we both accept that the laws are flawed, we have the other two sources.

        You allude to it by suggesting that the laws are made from our morals. Where do a community’s morals come from? God or Nature? We find that all communities are different in this way, and that means we have a different understanding of nature and of God.

        If we assume God, then we assume we either have a contract or a covenant. Is the God subject to the law (Judaism) or beyond the law (Christianity). Genesis explains this difference in contrast to the Gospels. The 10 commandments became two. If God is subject to the law, and the law is discoverable, then who can discover the law can also limit God. That presents a problem as man can set himeself equal to or at least in a different relationship to God. In that sense, man makes rules for himself or understands the rules in the way that God does, such as being bound by Nature. Such a view, though can confuse us as to our imperfection and we revert back to trying to discover the law and its source.

        We then turn to Nature as the source. Nature as bound by the Law or Nature as beyond the law ie the law itself. Yet, that suggests, interestingly, that nature is something that can be discovered. There is no term for nature in Ancient Greek, it had to be discovered, and it is not a term in the Bible. Thus, we find that the law has many sources, but no certainty that it can be discovered by normal men. At best, it may be discovered by those who search for it and not all of us have time to search for it.
        What this then suggests is your third point may be slightly flawed, in that the law applying to all equally may actually be unfair or create unequal treatment, unless you mean that the law, as law, applies to each as they deserve or as they are rather than as the community assigns to them. One could say that a law created by the weakest is not fit to bind the powerful as it puts the weak and the powerful in an unequal or artificial position that is not tenable. However, we have to accept, as we accept liberal democracy, equality before the law even as we may accept natural inequality indeed the two have to be compatible to avoid your feared tyranny.

        In closing I think you confuse the idea of the will as being less reliable than applying the same rule to everyone. Both, in their own way, create problems for a community and the community has to accept the limits of the law so that it can live together. Perhaps, we end where we started, which is that the community has to decide how it wants to live and recognize the origins of its laws. We might be asking too much for people to accept that their laws might be insufficient as they recognize that their cave, their community, is not *the* community as that idea points to the possible of the community and that, in turn, forces them to begin to live differently.

        I suppose we have to consider the purpose the law serves and whether we understand whether are free to make the laws, the principle of self government, or if we are not free as we simply live under the rules of others and resign ourselves or at least indulge ourselves that at least others appear to be living under them as we are. Such is freedom in the modern technological age.
        Thanks for the chat.
        Best,
        L.

      • Thank you for such a wonderful reply.
        You have restored my faith in blogging😉
        I think I have encountered such arguments many years ago.
        I think, if I am not mistaken, that this area (the central argument of our knowledge of the lawgiver) is used in examples of moving from first order to higher order logics.
        Be that as it may and I will try to look it up for myself, the idea of the Law is explored in Lacan in his writing about le Nom du père and elsewhere. Lacan, despite all the obscurity, is in my opinion continually relevant to understanding peoples relationship to the technology of the internet.
        Law, rules, privacy or lack of, are now mediated by the internet. They may originate without immediate human instigation. How and why do we have the range of reactions we have in this environment? It is here that I am interested in Lacan.

      • Thanks for the comment. I think Lacan offers an insight and is worth exploring. You may be interested in Rorty as well.
        From my work, the seminal figure to struggle with is Heidegger on his work regarding technology and what it means for us. As others have pointed, out Heidegger never talks about political philosophy and thus seems abstract or potentially inhuman. Curiously, though his posthumous interview he stated “only a god can save us.”
        Thanks again for the comment.
        L.

      • God cannot invent or enforce laws because ‘god’ is a fictitious entity. Nature cannot create or enforce laws because nature does not have agency (ie the ability to write down laws, convey them to the public and enforce them with guns).

        Only people can invent and enforce laws.

        > If we look at laws by men, we realize that they are imperfect and flawed…

        I do not understand what you mean by ‘perfect’ vs ‘imperfect’ law.

        In my book there are only consistent laws vs inconsistent laws. Which is to say, laws based on arbitrary ‘authority’ (the whims of kings or presidents or voters) vs laws based on RULES (conditions which apply universally).

        > You allude to it by suggesting that the laws are made from our morals.

        I am simply pointing out that laws which violate MORAL RULES are (by definition) immoral.

        Therefore if you support, fund and vote for the enforcement of laws which are immoral you are (by definition) supporting, funding and voting for immoral behaviour, which is itself immoral behaviour.

        1. Let’s propose theft, coercion, murder, kidnapping, assault and torture are immoral ways to behave.

        2. Anybody who rejects this proposition cannot complain if they are stolen from, coerced, murdered, kidnapped, assaulted or tortured because they have decided to judge these actions to be moral.

        3. Therfore due to point 2, it’s likely that everybody would agree these behaviours are immoral.

        4. Having defined these behaviours as immoral we can now use these moral rules to judge laws. Any law which violates those moral rules is by definition immoral.

        If society had followed these 4 simple steps and used basic moral rules (which we teach to 5 year olds!) to judge the legitimacy of laws (ie whether to obey/ support them or not) then none of the atrocities of the last century would have occurred. There would have been no tyrannical governments, no wars, no mass persecution, no massive economic fraud and no genocide.

        What caused all of those terrible things to happen was the fact that society placed laws ABOVE moral rules. People placed ‘government authority’ above ‘moral authority’.

        Basically we told our 5 year old children that theft, coercion, murder, kidnapping, assault and torture are immoral ways to behave….. and then some people in fancy costumes in a big building told us to support their theft, coercion, murder, kidnapping, assault and torture and we all said “OK! Sounds like a good idea to me! You’re the boss!”

        A free, peaceful, functional, happy and moral society is achieved with ease, simply by judging all laws by the most basic MORAL RULES and rejecting/ disobeying any laws which violate those moral rules.

        There is no rational way to argue against placing moral rules (moral authority) above laws (the authority of the people in special costumes who call themselves ‘government’).

        Your last comment is what most people do when faced with the ‘morality authority vs ‘government authority’ question, which is to completely evade the issue by waffling on and on about a load of nonsense🙂

      • Thanks. I am sure we are now talking past each other. Nature provides laws. You live with them everyday and respect them or suffer the consequences. Gravity is probably the best known natural “law”. There are others, such as incest that take on a more political issue.

        Leaving aside that obvious point, law involves coercion, by definition. There are people who do not want to be persuaded. I suggest you consider the first book of the republic. As Socrates demonstrated, the group could not convince him to go to the meeting, so they would have to coerce or at least threaten to coerce him.
        If someone does not want to obey the law, we force them to obey or we cannot have justice.
        The issue you want to discuss is justice, but you stay within a limited or positive realm. The positive law, is empty, literally and figuratively, of meaning. I suggest you consider how Hans Kelsen could be such a good jurist wherever he worked.🙂
        The moral rules you wish to impose are based on a law that is not fully know and needs to be discovered. The law of man is always imperfect, which is why we revise it all the time.
        I really wish I shared your belief in the benign nature of man that if we only remained as a 5 year old we would have no wars and no injustice. Yet, man is not an angel and man has knowledge of good and evil. Thus, we have sin. In sin, we have death. No matter how hard we struggle, we cannot escape it and for those who find a way to live with it, they find a way to live beyond the laws and live by the law.
        However, they cannot translate that into practice because that is the irony or problematic nature of the philosopher king.
        The best we do is consent. Consent requires reason. Reason requires understanding. Understanding requires curiosity and insight. Very few of us, myself included, rarely reach that far. Technology will never provide that for us no matter how much information it provides, it never can replace our judgement and that is the contradiction in the heart of all that we do.
        Thanks
        Lawrence

      • > Nature provides laws.

        A ‘law’ is a social construct. The ‘law of gravity’ is a METAPHOR. It is not a literal law. Nature does not enforce ‘the law of gravity’ with police and lawyers.

        > Leaving aside that obvious point, law involves coercion, by definition.

        ‘Force’ is a better word because coercion implies the INITIATION of force. When we use force to defend ourselves from coercion we are not coercing in the same way as the person who initiated the coercion.

        > There are people who do not want to be persuaded.

        Which is why laws sometimes have to be enforced with force.

        > If someone does not want to obey the law, we force them to obey or we cannot have justice.

        And when the law itself is immoral and unjust such as…. “Jews must be handed over to the SS”… or… “Everybody must fund from their own wages this genocidal war or bank bailout or military industrial complex or destructive social program” …..what then?

        Does enforcing this law = justice in those cases? Of course not. That is why moral rules must always supersede laws. A law just means an opinion with a gun. There is nothing automatically just or moral about a law.

        > The moral rules you wish to impose are based on a law that is not fully know and needs to be discovered.

        I don’t know what this means. I am not imposing anything. I am simply pointing out that any law which violates a moral rule is, by definition, immoral. You cannot disagree with this because it is basic logic.

        > The law of man is always imperfect, which is why we revise it all the time.

        This is waffle. You’re just evading the issue of judging laws by moral rules, probably because you understand that most laws are immoral when judged by the most basic and uncontroversial moral standards.

        > I really wish I shared your belief in the benign nature of man that if we only remained as a 5 year old we would have no wars and no injustice.

        You are misrepresenting what I said. I actually said if society had simply chosen to NOT RECOGNISE ANY LAWS WHICH VIOLATED BASIC MORAL RULES (rules like don’t murder, don’t assault, don’t steal, don’t torture etc) then none of the wars or persecutions of the last century would have happened. That is not wishful thinking. That is a STATEMENT OF PURE LOGIC.

        If society only obeys/ enforces laws which are MORAL (don’t murder, don’t assault, don’t steal, don’t torture etc) then war becomes literally an impossibility.

        > Yet, man is not an angel and man has knowledge of good and evil. Thus, we have sin. In sin, we have death.

        That is not an argument for abandoning moral rules.

        Men also get maths calculations wrong too, and some men do it deliberately to cheat the books. But that is not an argument for society abandoning mathematical rules is it?

        > No matter how hard we struggle, we cannot escape it

        Yes some people are bad. We know this already. There will probably always be rapists. But that is not an argument for having, or supporting or enforcing laws which permit rape.

        Why should we have, support or enforce laws which permit theft, murder, assault, coercion or torture?

        You have not yet made an argument to explain why we should accept, support or obey laws which violate basic moral rules.

        All you have done is evade the issue and tell me that some people are immoral, which everybody already knows.

      • Thanks for the comments. I am not sure what we are moving to. As Donoso Cortes say, without morality there is no justice, without god there is no morality. In the Ancient Greek world, each city had its own gods, and thus its own laws. Socrates was put to death by the city for not believing in the city’s gods.
        Today, we have similar gods. They give us the non-arbitrary standards that guide our lives.

        What is the source of your morals? Your thoughts, your family, your community? Nature?

        You may not wish to obey gravity, but you cannot avoid it for very long. You cannot break the laws of physics for very long before they re-assert themselves.

        Reducing all discussions to “All jews must be handed over the SS” simply misunderstands the issue. You are confusing the law and its purpose. You want to assert a morality, by all means assert a morality as the judge of the law, but what morality? Your morality?
        If you claim a universal morality, you are accepting a common human nature. You have now accepted that our nature, our human nature, determines our morality. Ok, now we are onto *natural rights* and *natural law*. However, we do not all understand or know nature in the same way or accept or interpret what it means or what it requires in the same way. This does not mean there is no morality. It means that our moral understanding is uncertain and can only obtain certainty to the extent that we investigate it and consider it, which requires us to invoke and ensure a common understanding of reason. No, I do not mean we are all irrational or that we cannot agree on 4+4 which is based on a mathematical system which in itself is a subset of knowledge rather than definitive. What I mean, is that for us to discover transhistorical and transpolitical laws, we have to agree on a common approach to those laws.

        What we arrive at is where we started. We live within a cave, the UK or the US. In that cave, we have the laws given to us. We may wish to leave that cave, and move out of it and assume we are now judging the UK and the US by a higher standard that we know because it is written in the hearts of all 5 year olds. Sadly, or rather hopefully, we have only left on cave to get to the higher cave, the cave where we can discuss the potential for transhistorical and transpolitical laws.
        The problem which you do not wish to address, and you believe means I am waffling, is that the laws you insist are universal and determinative, may not be upon examination. Until they are examined, rather than asserting “If only we were nice to each other there would never have been a war”, we cannot know. We are in the process of examining, to some extent. However, and this is the big problem, is that a community cannot tolerate nor accept that its core principles are challenged because it is too problematic in its consequences, which is why Socrates is put to death.
        For most of us, nearly all of us, the choice is between politics (religion) and philosophy. Nearly everyone chooses politics (religion) because that is an easier way to live and our communities can function, for the most part, with that agreement. Few people can live or think as philosophers (certainly not I) and that is the challenge of determining the best way to live. Is it to live well as an individual or as a part of a community? If it is, then it is best to follow the laws of the community because it provides the ready made morality however poorly understood. However, no earthly community can say that it has the definitive moral authority or understanding of man to have determined the best way to live. The law will serve whoever makes it, which is why I suggested the Minos, it explores these issues.
        Your final point that people make laws that are immoral. Taken to the logical conclusion it leads to anarchy, “I will only follow the laws I agree to follow”. Just because you disagree with a law does not make it immoral.
        Best,
        L.

      • > As Donoso Cortes say, without morality there is no justice, without god there is no morality.

        God is a fictional entity.

        > What is the source of your morals?

        The issue is not what my, or your, moral standards are. The issue is whether laws should be based on rules (such as moral rules) or whether laws should be based on a small group having a monopoly on the legal right to initiate force. You still have not touched this issue with an opinion or an argument.

        > You cannot break the laws of physics for very long before they re-assert themselves.

        By definition nobody can break ‘laws of nature’, including physics. If we invent a machine that can defy gravity then it is still obeying physics. We simply expand our definition of nature/ physics/ gravity to fit our new observations that’s all.

        By contrast anybody can violate a law against murder simply by murdering someone.

        > Reducing all discussions to “All jews must be handed over the SS” simply misunderstands the issue.

        Answer the question please. Do you regard all laws as automatically moral because they are the law, or do you accept that thousands of laws throughout history (and in the present) were/ are immoral?

        Should we obey laws that are immoral?

        If the German population had refused to recognise any laws which were immoral by ordinary standards (standards like don’t murder, don’t assault, don’t steal, don’t torture etc) WW2 would never have happened.

        Are you saying they were right to obey and help enforce those laws, even though they were blatantly immoral?

        > You want to assert a morality, by all means assert a morality as the judge of the law, but what morality? Your morality?
        If you claim a universal morality, you are accepting a common human nature.

        You misunderstand the issue. The issue is whether those who invent and enforce laws should be exempt from the behaviour they are attempting to outlaw.

        I say they should not. If someone enforces a law against rape they should not be granted the right to commit rape. There is nothing about enforcing laws against rape which requires them to commit rape.

        If someone enforces a law against theft they should not be granted the right to commit theft. There is nothing about enforcing laws against theft which requires them to commit theft.

        If someone enforces a law against assault, coercion, murder or torture they should not be granted the right to commit assault, coercion, murder or torture. There is nothing about enforcing laws against assault, coercion, murder or torture which requires them to commit assault, coercion, murder or torture.

        Governments enforce laws. Either they are just arbitrary rulers (AKA mafia, terrorists, gangs, bullies) operating under the principle of ‘might is right’ .. or.. else they are attempting to enforce some kind of moral code onto society via laws.

        To qualify as the latter they must (logically) adhere to, and be judged by, the same moral code they claim to be enforcing.

        Currently they do not, so we must conclude they are the former ie arbitrary rulers, mafia, thugs, terrorists etc. There is no other logical conclusion given their actions.

        > Your final point that people make laws that are immoral. Taken to the logical conclusion it leads to anarchy, “I will only follow the laws I agree to follow”. Just because you disagree with a law does not make it immoral.

        And just because you agree with a law it doesn’t make that law moral. That is the whole point. The only way to determine is a law is moral or immoral is to pass moral judgement on it.

        It’s very simple. Do YOU agree that murder, theft, assault, coercion, torture and kidnapping are immoral? Yes or no?

        Answer “no they I do not think they are immoral”… then you cannot support the enforcement of laws against these actions because that would be hypocritical. Also you cannot complain if somebody murders you, steals from you, assaults you, coerces you, tortures you or kidnaps you because you have already defined this actions as moral.

        Answer “Yes I think those actions are immoral” … then you agree that any group (including a government) who enforce laws which allow them to murder, steal, assault, coerce, torture and kidnap is behaving immorally … as is anybody who willingly supports, funds or enforces those laws.

      • Thanks for your replies. I will try to draw this together.
        First, you avoid questioning the source of your morality. Instead, you avoid that argument and say that laws should be based on rules. This is circular. Laws should be based on laws. Rules should be based on rules.
        Second, you then say should laws be based on a small group having a monopoly on the legal right to initiate force. That again, avoids the issue of the source of their morality. You only displace it to a second level. You are suggesting that laws are either made on rules (but not explaining where those come from) or by a small group. Why this dichotomy. There are other options. Moreover, this still avoids the issue.
        Where do those few get their morality? What I conclude from your arguments is that morality comes from anyone’s will. They simply assert their morality and if they get enough people to agree, then it is the group’s morality. Curiously, this is an argument you attributed to me and which you wished to avoid.
        Second, the argument from nature is to point to the well known and understood standard that nature plays in the life of man. Man understands himself in contradistinction to the universe. He is part of it and also transcends it. We do not expand our observation of nature. Nature does not exist because we will it. When all men are dead and the world devoured by the sun, nature will still exist. We only discover nature through various tools. Our discoveries show the limits of our knowledge.
        You appear to believe that we have perfect knowledge. If we did, we would not be having this discussion and we would not have to debate or discuss why we live the way we live or how we live.
        Third, asking whether all laws are moral because they are the law misunderstands the point. First, All laws are moral to the community that makes them. This is because they reflect the community’s morality, what the community understands or agrees is right or wrong. The issue then is not the law, but the community that makes the law. In Ancient Greece that was called the regime. What this leads us to is Aristotle’s point about the good man and good citizen. See for example http://www.iep.utm.edu/aris-pol/#SH9b for an appreciation of the tension that such a view creates between a love of one’s own and the good, properly understood, see http://www.practicalphilosophy.net/?page_id=423
        Then you argue that all the laws in history are immoral based on today’s morality. This is a fallacy. The fallacy of presentism. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presentism
        Fourth, as to obeying laws that are immoral that assumes already you or I know what is immoral. In your view, as expressed previously, that morality comes from the self-asserted will, then any law you disagree with is by definition immoral. However, that simply begs the question as you have not suggested what morality is aside from a circular reasoning that morality is about knowing right from wrong. I gather that what is wrong is coercion anywhere and always. Yet, that misunderstands coercion and why it is necessary. In fact, coercion can be commonly understood as necessity. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/coercion/
        Obeying an immoral law is like saying do you want to be a married bachelor. The law expresses the community’s morality. If you assert a law is immoral, you are applying a higher morality. However, you have not defined that higher morality nor are you able to articulate it. You assume you know it. This is the point I was trying to make that any appeal to a “higher” morality is contestable, which makes it problematic. This is the tension between knowing the good as an individual and having to be a good citizen. A better way to understand this is should you obey a bad law. The answer is yes. You obey a bad law until you can change it. Lincoln made this argument well as he lived with slavery and understood how evil it was. However, he knew that if he simply disobeyed the problem would be worse because the outcome is either anarchy or tyranny not ruling by consent. http://www.constitution.org/lincoln/lyceum.htm
        The above is what makes your reference to Nazi Germany so problematic. The whole regime was diseased and there was no way to change it saves through war. Individuals could and did resist, but there was no mechanism to change it, as there was in the United States (and even then it required a civil war to enforce that decision). The German population would not recognise the laws as invalid. To claim that the problem of Nazism in Germany can be reduced to ordinary standards like don’t murder is wrong. Murders were punished in Germany. Murders of Jews were not because they were enemies of the state. The state had already rendered them to be removed. However, Jews were not shot anywhere and everywhere. Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem explains that that Jewish Police helped to round up Jews on the orders of the Nazis. http://platypus1917.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/arendt_eichmanninjerusalem.pdf
        Also, you are asking the Germans to act against the Nazis based on our current understanding of Nazism. This is another example of a fallacy. You are saying what we know is what all Germans should have known and that all Germans would have resisted. Clearly some wanted to kill the Jews and to wage war. However, your basis point is correct; if no one agreed then nothing could have happened. However, that begs the question, how do you know that everyone would agree? Please do not say “Everyone knows murder is wrong” That argument is fallacious as well as it states the consequent as the premises. Murder by definition is wrong, that is why we use the term murder. If you meant, all killing is wrong, then we move to the question of whether any killings can be justified. Yes, they can.
        Fifth, you now claim that those who make the laws should be subject to them. When was that at issue? The point I was making was that someone who lives by morality of a higher sort is not making that morality, they are simply following it. They did not make it because it exists beyond their will. This is the point of the philosopher. He or she is pursuing the good. They are not saying “This is the good follow me.” Leaving that point aside, the rule of law means that it applies to all citizens of the regime.
        Sixth, the government is not a citizen. The institution itself has the power to change the laws and, on occasion, act outside the laws. My broader point that you missed was the difference between Judaism and Christianity’s view of God. However, you misunderstand the role of justice and what it means to judge a government when it acts beyond the laws as required by necessity. This is the challenge of representational government. Also, it assumes that a government (as a principal or as an agent) is judged by morality. One cannot judge a government of morality anymore than one can judge a dog. A government can act good or bad, but that is the intent of the regime that needs to be judged, thus when it acts beyond the law, say when the police speed to a crime, they are asserting that the higher principle, pursuit of a crime *justifies* their behaviour. They have to justify their behaviour according to the standard within the community.
        The difference between a government and a gang of robbers is justice, which explains the issue of why morality comes into these discussions. We want to judge a government as we judge individuals and apply morality, but this anthropomorphises. They can be treated as a moral person within certain limited circumstances, but they are not a person i.e. with a soul. This offers a way to understand the issues. http://www.sci.brooklyn.cuny.edu/~schopra/Persons/French.pdf
        Seventh, you make a continued circular reasoning when you say that the only way to determine a law is moral is to pass a moral judgement on it. The problem is that you and I have not defined morality or its source. I have suggested that morality comes from the community and it asserts what is right or wrong for the community. We see this transformed, to some degree, by Christianity and the appeal to a higher law, which in itself is still unverifiable although can guide us to the extent that it offers examples of behaviour.
        Eighth, you made the point that I have to agree that murder is wrong and theft is wrong. Again, this is circular reason. Bad is Bad so you agree Bad is Bad. Consider this argument in response “All property is theft”. Is that immoral? Remember that something can be illegal without being immoral. http://www.qcc.cuny.edu/socialSciences/ppecorino/INTRO_TEXT/Chapter%208%20Ethics/Mores_Law_Morality.htm
        What I think this discussion boils down to is that you wish to judge the government as an individual or judge a community like an individual. The sentiment is well intentioned; you want people to obey the law as you do. However, that misunderstand the role of the community and the role of the government. This does mean they are immoral or above the law. It means that they have to act for the best of the community not the best of an individual. Moreover, they have to justify their behaviour or acts in ways that an individual would not have to justify. A person who wastes his personal time reading comic books does not have to justify that to anyone. A government or a community that did that would have to justify it to its members.
        The government can become corrupted and wrong in its dealings and when it gets it wrong for a long period of time, civil wars can occur. What keeps it tolerable is that we are ruled and ruled in turn. Thus, those who make the laws, in a liberal democracy, have to live under them or justify any exception to the community.
        Thanks for the discussion. I do not see any point of further discussion as I think we have reached the end point. If you wish to respond, that is fine, but I am unable to devote anymore time to the issue.

        Answer “no they I do not think they are immoral”… then you cannot support the enforcement of laws against these actions because that would be hypocritical. Also you cannot complain if somebody murders you, steals from you, assaults you, coerces you, tortures you or kidnaps you because you have already defined these actions as moral.
        Answer “Yes I think those actions are immoral” … then you agree that any group (including a government) who enforce laws which allow them to murder, steal, assault, coerce, torture and kidnap is behaving immorally … as is anybody who willingly supports, funds or enforces those laws.

      • It’s very simple. You are just creating distractions to evade addressing the central issue.

        Laws are either based on:

        (a) “might is right” (do as we say …. or else guns, cages, tasers etc)

        (b) the enforcement of some kind of moral code, a code which must (logically) apply to everyone, including law enforcers themselves.

        So it does not matter where a moral code comes from, it only matters whether it is being applied CONSISTENTLY (to everyone) or not.

        If a group enforce laws which forbid immoral behaviour for the population, while allowing the enforcers to engage in that immoral behaviour then that law is not outlawing immoral behaviour – it is enforcing a monopoly on the legal right to behave immorally. (ie the law says that WE can behave immorally but YOU can’t).

        You argue that morality is subjective. But even if that is true it makes no difference, because the issue is the CONSISTENCY of moral rules, not their origin.

        If John invents the moral rule “Theft is moral” then John will have to accept that it’s OK for Jim to steal all of his stuff. Applying moral rules CONSISTENTLY is what keeps them fair. Every new step of progress we have made as a civilisation has been the result of applying moral rules more CONSISTENTLY. What distinguishes ‘civilisation’ itself from ‘social breakdown and social dysfunction’ IS the consistent application of moral rules.

        So with that in mind I will ask you again…

        *Do YOU define assault, murder, coercion, theft, kidnapping and torture as moral or immoral?*

        “I define them as moral” ….. then you cannot complain when someone assaults you, murders you, coerces you, steals from you, kidnaps you, or tortures you because you claim these things are moral.

        “I define them as immoral” …. then you must agree that any laws which enforce (or depend on) that kind of behaviour are immoral, as are any governments who enforce those laws and everybody who willingly supports those laws.

        Throughout history many groups have set themselves up as enforcers of moral rules (religions, governments, kings etc) but in every case what they were actually enforcing was a violent monopoly on the right to behave immorally.

        They were all basically saying “The laws we have created only grant us (the kings/ church/ government) the right to steal, assault, murder, torture, kidnap etc ….. but our laws forbid you to behave that way”

  4. I think one key issue, certainly for me, is that technology, currently, has outstripped our ability to frame shared ethical constraints around it. This emerges in all sorts of ways from celebrity phone hacking of all flavours through to suppositions that everything on the web is free and share-able. It extends to wider questions associated with the emergence of ‘surveillance advertising’ in which our online activities, including use of our phones and even our immediate location, are ‘owned’ by somebody else, often without our conscious knowledge (‘It’s in the Terms and Conditions’: ‘Who reads those?’)

    The advent of cloud storage – apparently the ‘way of the future’ – adds more private content to the mix. As I understand it, part of the problem in the specific case of the celebrity selfie hacking was that their phones were transferring data to the cloud without making that obvious. The experience adds to the growing urgency of the teched-up world, collectively, developing ways of properly handling the whole issue of online privacy, security and ethics. Because we’re dealing with populations – transnationally at that – it’s not going to be easy; the answer will have to be social, involving shared ethical principles of respect, honesty and trust that will have to emerge organically, but which I think can be nudged into reality if enough people talk about it. Of course that won’t stop vandals and thieves; but any steps are better than no steps. It has to be tackled – and thanks for kicking off a cogent discussion!

    • I’m not sure that Paul Bernal has “kicked off” this discussion.
      Paul’s interest is in the legal and ethical. Mine is the motivational and ethical, but also in the technical.
      One of the issues I’m researching is if there is a technical solution – but for what?
      Well there are some contending solutions, but there are formidable difficulties.
      The real problem is that the internet is, unmodified, a broadcast medium and the ability to broadcast has been given to essentially anonymous agents, BTW not always human, or behaving in a particularly human way.
      The first slightly successful attempt to alter this has been facebook. It is instructive that they are
      a. a virtual monopoly.
      b. employ around 7000 including part timers and serve 4+ billion, 1.5 people per million.
      On the other hand they invest very heavily in infrastructure (however they do that) as high volume companies must.
      What ever the details here, they do not have the capacity nor are they in the position to really address the issue. Some solutions, were they possible, would radically contradict their business model.
      What we are really interested in is what is the role of the broadcast element in a communication.
      For instance someone broadcast pictures of Jennifer Lawrence, in terms of broadcast successful as others helped propagate the message, necessary in the current internet carve up if it is to have the greatest reach.
      You might consider, while we think about this, that such signals are very useful to advertisers to give a baseline behaviour for achieving reach.
      But contrast that to this communication here, my communication with you. I suppose I have been given leave to make these comments to you under the aegis of Paul Bernal. I do nothing more than login and make comments to express my gratitude for that, i.e. the price for me is not great, although there is a certain risk, as I explain.
      There is nothing particularly salacious in what I post, for sure few will read it. But the question remains why it is public? The answer is that because it is the most convenient way of posting to a blog without restricting possible other as yet unknown interested parties. Other parties who, by definition, are unknown to me.
      Depending on who one is, there is also an inherent risk in that. A risk that often drives people to try to hide their own identity.
      In the current arrangement the other parties are essentially anonymous, not withstanding that I have logged in. There is no such requirement on these putative other people of course. They may only be reading the posts. Hence the connection between broadcast and anonymity.
      It is possible to envisage a different system where both readers and posters would not be anonymous, not in the same way as they now are, but instead known by trusted third parties who would act as proxies for their reputation.
      How is this different to google circles or Facebook friend lists?
      Those mechanisms are extremely promiscuous while offering little apparent control.
      The underlying assumption has been that people have wanted to broadcast – the thrill of the century!
      And if not, then what?
      When I took a bit of interest in g+ I noticed how some built up huge numbers of connections whom they then proceeded to broadcast to. And others felt bombarded and complained.
      The question now becomes why the current arrangement of the internet does not provide people with a ready reputation system, and if such a system is possible to implement.

      • I am not sure there is a technological solution to privacy. Technology always defeats technology and it raises the implicit question: “What is technology for?” Although that may suggest we are captured by a technological view that we cannot escape because we now only think technologically.
        By privacy, I do not mean what we do behind our doors or drawn blinds. I certainly do NOT mean what we do on the internet. Anyone who believes what we do on the internet has some sort of privacy forgets (like they forget about God) the system administrator.

        Leaving aside the technological point, the deeper issue of privacy is what we do with our privacy, our private thoughts. Spinoza believed it was a space to allow the freedom to philosophize. If everyone were private, then how could we sustain a community? Thus, we find a serious challenge depending on what privacy is for and what it means within a community. I think that privacy, or rather the freedom of thought, because that is the only space we can protect from others as we only share it with ourselves (and God). Yet, that desire to be free to think our thoughts presupposes that we know how to think (Have we started to think? Is a question Heidegger posed) especially if we understand that freedom of thought is basis for freedom. Here we face a serious problem as the community, and that which we allow to influence us, is what shapes our thinking or constrains it. Thus, our freedom is shaped or controlled by our relationship with the community that we cannot fully escape with or without technology.

        Technology appears benign and we desire the convenience and the hedonism. However, technology is causing us to forget what it means to be human and that is the deeper problem that is only becoming apparent, indirectly or as a shadow, with various discussions of privacy.

    • I’m not sure you can separate them nearly as much as in the past, particularly given the role of corporations. Governments ‘piggy back’ on corporate surveillance, for example, as PRISM and related programmes demonstrate, and corporations act to normalise a lack of privacy – and that normalisation is then taken advantage of by governments. Moreover, government agencies are made up of individuals – and these individuals can use their government-granted powers for their own ends, as has been demonstrated time and time again, from using surveillance to track down ex-lovers onwards.

      It’s all much more fuzzy than it was before.

  5. The idea of privacy is tricky because all of us should be entitled to privacy, but then situations arise when crimes are investigated and a person’s privacy is stripped away. I do agree that, fundamentally, we all need privacy. Just because someone is a celebrity does not mean that he or she has sacrificed a right to privacy. Celebrities are still human beings, and deserve their right to privacy.

  6. Basically it is a key issue, technology and interconnectivity have their play into it, and whether you are a public person or not, your privacy must be a protected, when your privacy is intruded and details you rather not share are exposed by a third party it can be damaging and we should try to avoid that as to all we are entitled to our privacy and life as we see fit as long as we aren’t breaking the law.Good argument and article overall!

  7. Reblogged this on freestylemobility and commented:
    There is plenty of covert manual and digital ways to infringe should a situation warrant it. There it is, the word warrant. Only a warrant should allow privacy of any entity or domain to be able to breech ones privacy. I use temporary phone numbers from Freestyle Mobility as a buffer from ID theft, harassment, or over marketing. Its cost is minimal and has tons of features to protect your cell phone activities. PGP email for my desk top. I will right out my own privacy requests and regard others privacy. Maybe time for an RFID Wallet

  8. I’m on the side of personal privacy, but I think it’s going the way of the dodo. Technology is stripping away every barrier to intrusion that there is. Phone hacks, intercepts, illegal wiretapping. And all capable of being done from a laptop at a coffee shop. It’s disheartening to say the least. A final thought about Jennifer Lawrence and the others. I truly believe that in this day and age, if you have allowed yourself to be photographed or videotaped nude, it is going to get out. It is 100%, absolutely going to get out. But hacking the phones and distributing the photos was a complete invasion of privacy and we should be able to be secure enough to do a little racy something-something for our partners without having to share it with the universe. Rant over.

    -MOTS

    • The idea that ‘privacy is dead’ is a persistent one, and with a lot of points in its favour. I’m giving a paper at a conference this week called ‘The Resurrection of Privacy’ – I think that even if it is dead, we need to try our best to resurrect it. It will probably need a miracle – but miracles are possible.

  9. Thanks for an informative post. I, myself, don’t believe the Media has an argument here. They are ruthless and extremely selective in what they deem newsworthy. Truth is, amongst the hundreds of nude celebrity photos there are a million acts of celebrity kindness that will never be covered by the media as they will not sell papers. Which saddens me as it probably says more about us than them.

  10. I adore Jennifer Lawrence, I think she is a fantastic role model for young women out there but, my question to her, and many others is; why are you allowing these photos to be taken of you to begin with? All they do is make you look like a comodity eventually.

    It horrifys me that even us, the every day person have very little privacy in today’s world. Facebook, and Instagram are what we can thank for that, and for as much as I can not stand it that is our fault’s too.

    I recently had an experience with my own invasion of privacy, one in which I will share later on today on my blog, and have still remained unsure of exactly what to do about the situation. It isn’t an enjoyable experience. That I can state for sure. Great post.

  11. Celebrities knew when they signed on to fame and fortune what the out come would be. If not for celebrity gossip rags and the like most up and coming new stars wouldn’t get the attention they so desperately want. Then when they hit stardom they cry and bitch about being hounded on the streets when they step out of their palaces. Careful what you wish for comes to mind. As far as celebs and regular folk getting their accounts hacked and their nude pics getting expose for the world to see? Since when did the internet become some sacred safety place to store any sort of information? Only a complete moron hasn’t come to the realization that accounts are hacked each and every day and if you don’t want strangers viewing your nude pics then don’t post them or save them on a computer. No sympathy from me. We’ve become a society filled with selfie narcissists and I quite frankly couldn’t care less.

  12. The phone hacking saga has become a gigantic cause of concern for the top ranked officials and politicians across the globe. On second thoughts, it is necessary considering the security issues. So, you can not term it completely illegitimate.
    Now coming to the celebs. It is more of ‘publicity stunt’ and a good way of keeping oneself in the news.🙂

  13. In the future we will pay a hefty fee for our privacy, people will seek out organisations that can make them invisible, remove all traces of them from the internet. I wonder if there will be a time where we reach a saturation point for interest in seeing another body naked – it’s getting boring.

    • ‘In the future we will pay a hefty fee for our privacy … ‘
      Although – just so that people know – these things are being worked on in such a way that there should be no cost for privacy.

      • Should be – but will be – it’s the only area you can’t possibly guarantee – world stage is the internet

  14. There is much to think about these issues because I don’t think we quite understand how the web works now in personal social terms.
    When I comment here, and I seem to have become a frequent commentator for various reasons, it is two people who don’t know each other, who have read only those words posted here as a common factor and all comments are in full view, which mean subject to being seen by others who have in common reading these words plus arbitrary other people. Also stretching into the future, if people come back to the archives.
    The cost of greater privacy maybe that the elements I mention above are identified in such a way that they can be allowed or disallowed to different extents.
    There are many quite subtle issues here, and new systems would give us greater control.
    For instance, sticking to what is in front of us, having seen your avatar I regret mine. Perhaps a more clever system of privacy controls would enable some negotiation on such issues, simulating the water cooler, I suppose.
    All this would require greater thought on our part. That would be, as I say, the cost.

  15. I do not believe that celebrities or anyone who maintains a high level of fame should have less of a right to privacy. They are just working people and we all are entitled to our privacy. One might not view their profession as “real work” but their job is to entertain us, which is no different from street performer or a magician at a birthday party. They are relevant and famous because we allow them to be by criticizing their work just as a manager would review an employee’s performance.

    Unfortunately, society is naturally nosey and at some point, people became obsessed with how these people live their everyday lives. It is sad that these people no longer have the freedom to properly raise a family or live an ideal life. These people have to maintain their level of performance and stay relevant, please all the fans by making appearances, deal with the paparazzi who are constantly in there face all hours of the day trying to provoke negative reactions for profit, and live. It does not matter what you do or who you are, at some point, you want and need alone time. What if you are a celebrity and want to take your family to the beach you visited every summer as a child? Going there, you are unable to relax because everyone wants your picture and conversation. Eventually, you will have to stop going because of the chaos and then the public will say that you’re too good to go to normal beaches. If not, someone will have something to say.

    I find it disgusting that these people cannot even have certain pictures on their own phones in fear of having it hacked and released to the world. What purpose does this serve? How obsessed can someone be to do something like this?

    The information attained and provided by the press, police, paparazzi, or anyone else should be done so within their rights.

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